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Making Things Better: It Always Starts With You

grumpy-cafe-baristaMindful customer service

I frequent a local café. It’s very close to my home, the coffee is good and the prices are fair. The service, though, is… meh. Sometimes worse than meh. A lot of the staff are 20-something hipsters with a busier-than-thou attitude. Too hip to muster up a sincere smile or engage in jovial small talk. I usually leave feeling indifferent about the place. I’m not the only one – this cafe gets decidedly mediocre reviews on social media sites.

I’m writing this post a few minutes after I entered the place, having just had a little encounter that epitomizes the customer experience. As I approached the entrance I noticed that one of the main managers of the cafe was a couple of feet ahead of me, about to open the door. He made no eye contact, pushed open the door and held it for a second or two for me to pass through as almost any other human being would do; a basic bare minimum level of politeness. But he’s the manager of the place! I’m a regular customer! It certainly wouldn’t have killed him to say “Hi, how you doing?” And then he could have held open the door for me to enter *ahead of him.* He could have added a “good to see you* and I would have been over the moon. It might seem a little obsequious and subservient by hipster standards but most customers would find it charming. And people like me, born long ago, in the 1960s, would see it as just decent hospitable behavior. I don’t think our perspective is entirely irrelevant; I’d guess at least half the patrons of this cafe were born in the 1960s or earlier.

If your business is not quite as successful as you think it deserves to be, before you go around diagnosing the problem as being caused by this or that employee or this or that external factor, look in the mirror first. Oh, did I mention that the owner of this cafe is usually absent but when he’s around he often look grumpy and is minimally communicative. Pro tip: If you’re a pronounced introvert, don’t go into a business that’s built around social connection. It doesn’t matter how passionate you are about coffee, or beer or wine or whatever if you’re not even more passionate about making people happy.

Making things better – it starts with you. Is your behavior excellent and exemplary at all times. If not, what can you do on a continuous, sustainable basis to improve? And are you regularly seeking out frank feedback and courageous constructive criticism?

Mindful customer service

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New Year’s Resolutions and the Aggregation of Marginal Gains

resolution-british-cyclingIsn’t it time to get real about New Year’s Resolutions?

Research shows that around 80% of us fail to stick with our goals beyond the 31st of January.

In the media, we only hear about the mega success stories, the ones with the spectacular before and after photos. But many of the most powerful, sustainable achievements – in the sports world as well as the personal world – happen in incremental, subtle ways built up over several years, and sometimes decades.
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An Easy 12-Step Program to Keep Leaders Healthy

executive-health-work-life-balance-wellbeingCall me hopelessly naïve, but I think it’s possible to run a major corporation and still work less than 15 hours a day.
There is no leadership message more destabilizing than hearing that a chief executive is unexpectedly taking time off because of “fatigue”. Taking a sudden unplanned break is bound to raise doubts about a leader’s ability to manage his or her “work/life balance.”

That phrase “work/life balance” has always annoyed me because it suggests that work and life should be and can be kept separate. They absolutely cannot be isolated from each other for many people, especially most highly successful people.

A better term might be “work/health balance”. This helps leaders focus on the fact that too much time and energy spent on work can be detrimental to one’s health, something almost everyone understands already. If you are a CEO the precarious state of your health, of course, pose a great risk to the whole organization.

Imagine you’re the chief executive on a multi-million dollar compensation package. How might you arrange things to keep yourself healthy while still working 12 or 13 hours a day? Here’s a checklist:

Step One: Ask your personal administrator to find a top-notch nutritionist who specializes in working with senior executives

Step Two: Have two one-hour appointments (in total) with said nutritionist (they’ll of course visit you in your office if you pay them enough)

Step Three: Have said nutritionist design a daily and weekly meal plan and, in cooperation with a local high-quality restaurant or caterer, arrange for them to deliver two to three ultra-healthy and highly palatable meals (it *is* possible!)
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Seven Steps To Becoming More Productive

efficiency and effectivenessEfficiency & effectiveness

Be honest. You’re distracted, right? In fact, that’s probably why you are reading this blog post instead of working on that project you should have finished already, Michael Hyatt writes.

Here are seven steps to getting unstuck. They are not that revolutionary on their own, but practiced together, they are like a defibrillator for your productivity:

1. Create a to-do list for today.
Many people keep lists, especially those who have been inspired by David Allen’s GTD method. They have scores—perhaps hundreds—of tasks, neatly divided by projects, contexts, or areas of focus. But they don’t know what they need to get done today. I recommend creating a simple list for today with just three critical actions on it.

2. Turn on some inspiring music.
You need music that is not distracting. For me that means instrumental-only selections. I listen to music whenever I want to get out of the world and into my work.
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Three Foolproof Ways to Get Relaxation Into Your Busy Schedule

business_woman_relaxingTaking time to relax helps you be at your best for business, Marisa Sanfilippo explains.

Some 55% of American workers left vacation days unused last year. It’s time to build up performance planning for long-term productivity.

Relaxing helps heal. A relaxed mind is able to help the body heal better. When our bodies are under a lot of pressure, our immune system gets beat up. High stress can make us sick. Chronic stress lasting a month or more affects the risk of catching a cold.

Relaxing makes us be more productive. Spending more hours at work often leads to less time for sleep and insufficient sleep takes a substantial toll on performance.

Relaxing helps us make better decisions. Stress can affect our ability to think clearly, changing how we weigh risk and reward. Competence in judgment is always comprised under stress. It induces a tendency to offer solutions before all decision alternatives had been considered and to scan such alternatives in a non-systematic fashion.

1. Take mini breaks throughout the day.
I set three reminders on my phone every day to practice their one-minute meditation.
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Is the Internet Making Us Stupid?

internet_making_us_stupid_googleSome ammunition from Benjamin Storm for those claiming that the internet is making us stupid.

Using the internet to look up facts makes us more reliant on it in the future, Benjamin’s latest research finds. The more times people look up facts online, the less they prefer to rely on their own memories for even the simplest questions.

“As more information becomes available via smartphones and other devices, we become progressively more reliant on it in our daily lives.”

In an experiment, 30% of people who used Goggle to answer a difficult question later used Google again to answer a simple question they could have used their own memory to answer.
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Going Analogue for a Summer Break: The Doable Digital Detox

a0032-000037A lot of the problem with technology is the shear volumes of it we are consuming per day.

As with many things “the dose make the poison.” For example, some people have severe problems drinking alcohol; they need to quit entirely and stay “sober.” However, others just need to cut back. Maybe they need to cut back a lot, but there’s a big difference between drinking a half-bottle of wine every single evening and having one or two glasses twice a week or so.

Similarly it’s not the same effect subsuming oneself in e-mail, texting, social media and other screen-based information 14 hours a day versus just 1 hour a day.

So this summer vacation period I suggest you try this simple experiment. Limit yourself to all non-urgent uses of your computers, phones, etc. to just one 60-minute period per day. For example from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. only. Yes, you can check the weather on the internet. What about texting? Every time you can possibly use your voice, try that instead.

You might be amazed to discover that with merely on hour a day of serious screen time, you can stay in touch at a minimal, basic level with everyone who is truly important to stay in touch with right now. You can keep projects moving forward *and* regain your sanity.

I’ve carefully chosen the 5 p.m. to 6 p..m time period because it’s late enough to not interfere with a good day out at the beach, fishing, hiking, horse riding, etc. It’s also still early enough to not interfere with dinner or with evening entertainment. At around 5pm, the blue glow of your screen doesn’t send false signals to your brain about daylight hours, thus enabling you to go to sleep faster and sleep more deeply at 10 or 11 p.m., i.e. four to five hours later.

By the way, for your 60-minutes per day, I’m not counting time spent reading one low-tech tablet, i.e. the very most basic Kindle, just in black and white, and not connected live to the Internet. We all sense the difference between using a tablet as a book or magazine substitute and using it to reconnect with the internet by stealth.

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Meetings Should be Mindful But Not Necessarily Fun

mindful_meeting_cristina_fernandez

Productive meetings

There’s a burgeoning trend in some management advice circles. Employees are disengaged, so the thinking goes, because the work environment isn’t stimulating enough. They don’t participate in meetings because they’re not fun. Tell some jokes, devise some games, bring in snacks, a bit of music and then you’ll get more energy in the room. Make meetings more like a cocktail party and people will want to attend them.

Sorry to be a pooper, but I’m not a fan of putting fun first. Attendance in a party-style meeting doesn’t usually make the meeting productive. It might make time pass more quickly for some and for many others – your best employees – it might just cause irritation and frustration.

“Fun” meetings bring to mind the television series The Office. Both the British and American versions feature an office manager who is entirely unfocused, undisciplined and quite attention-deficit-hyperactively-disordered. He spends most of his days recounting recycled jokes and hackneyed comedy routines and forcing impromptu festivities on his employees, most of whom just want to get on with their jobs, sell some paper supplies and ensure their long-term livelihood by helping the company succeed. So it is with many employees in the real world.
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Mending Your Ways to Contribute a Verse: Whitman and Mindfulness

97r/36/vica/8084/03Walt Whitman’s poem “O Me! O Life!” throws out numerous challenges to its readers, particularly people in business who have endured thousands of hours traveling to and from work in cars, buses, trains and planes. And spent even more hours than that working in offices surrounded by unwise and unskillful people.

The challenge Whitman poses is how well do we really know ourselves? With as much humility as possible are we open to new self discoveries? After all this time and toil, who have we become? But also — more hopefully — what are we still capable of becoming? How can we fulfill our potential?

Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,

Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,

Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)

Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,

Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,

Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,

The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?

That you are here—that life exists and identity,

That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

Paraphrasing the meditation teacher Jack Kornfield: The challenge of our lives is continuously turning our internal compass toward true north; turning toward compassion.

Listen to your heart. Listen out for your own particular gifts and capacities, Kornfield advises. Listen to the cycles of your life for what it is time to do now with what you have been given. Bring your heart and your whole being into the present and respond to what is in front of you.
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Cool, Calm and Collected at Work

cool_at_workStress management is a lot about treating email as a hot medium.

Most people aspire to working in a state of being that can be summed up as “cool, calm and collected.”

The meaning here of “calm” is fairly obvious. “Collected” less so. In this context it probably means “focused” – a mind that is centred, and grounded, not distracted nor agitated

What is meant by “cool?” That’s a term that has been in common use since the 1930s, often referring to jazz musicians.

The phrase “cool as a cucumber” goes back to 1880s England.

In the 1960s it even became the last name of the alter ego of Snoopy, the rakishly loveable beagle in the Peanuts cartoon – “Joe Cool.”

In its comical representation, cool looks a bit arrogant and indifferent. And those are potentially the risks of an excessively cool posture. But for people who try to cultivate an authentically cool way of being, it can manifest itself as balanced, relaxed, untroubled, adaptable and resilient. The term in English often used by Buddhists to describe this type of cool is “equanimous” from the noun “equanimity.”
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The Rocky Road To Greatness: “Super Champions” Vs. “Almosts”

close finish super champions mental fitness
Learning to navigate a “rocky road” – often riddled with setbacks both inside and outside the competitive arena – is the essential element in becoming among the best in the world.

A new study headed by researcher Dave Collins highlights key characteristics that separate the best of the best (“Super Champions”), the good (“Champions”), and those who didn’t quite make it (“Almosts”).

Super Champions have developed the skills to cope with obstacles and disappointments without unraveling. The researchers, from the U.K., carried out extensive interviews with athletes from a variety of sports, including soccer, skiing, rowing and combat disciplines.

Athletes who reached the very highest level are never satisfied with their performance; they are always looking for improvements and setting tougher goals. They also have total commitment and relentless internal drives that their less successful peers lack.

When faced with injuries or failures, the almost great athletes often become despondent and lose enthusiasm. Super Champions, though, are determined to return stronger than ever.

According to the study: “Super Champions are characterized by an almost fanatical reaction to challenge, both proactively and in reaction to mishaps which typically occurred due to injury or sport related setbacks such as non-selection/being dropped.”

The most surprising finding was that the almost-great athletes suffered no more setbacks, on average, than the Super Champions or Champions. In other words: the difference wasn’t down to bad luck, but a unique attitude. “It is more what performers bring to the challenges than what they experienced,” the researchers wrote.

Super Champions:
– They are proactive in rising to face setbacks such as injury and non-selection
– Have received from coaches positive facilitation and gentle encouragement
– Often have siblings who play a significant role in supporting and challenging
– Have meticulous, persistent attention to detail

The lesson for coaches who want to groom a Super Champion? Often less is more. Taking a hands-off approach appears to be considerably better than micromanaging or “helicoptering” a young athlete. In fact, coping with adversity on their own ultimately makes young athletes more self-reliant and resilient.

Super Champions learn to view setbacks as opportunities for growth, and not as roadblocks. They tend to be both proactive and looked for positive meaning in response to “bumps” in the road with a “bring it on!” mentality.

Developing skills to handle unexpected obstacles and setbacks with grace, self-reflection, and unwavering determination takes practice and real-world life experience.

In their ascent to greatness, the paths of Super Champions are often filled with more adversity and setbacks than their less-successful peers encounter. The young athletes who didn’t achieve greatness tended to have an “easy ride”; having a parent or coach constantly holding their hand throughout the process, making the journey more like a chaperoned field trip than a heroic adventure.

In fact, for the “Almost” category, parents and coaches often played a big (sometimes perceived as overbearing) role in young athlete’s pursuits. Unfortunately, having an adult figure constantly “driving the bus” resulted in floundering when the athletes had to eventually are on their own.

Most of the coddled athletes didn’t have the skills to be self-reliant by the time they reached university. For example, two “Almost” achievers in the study described this conundrum by saying, “My parents, Dad especially was always there… shouting instructions from the touchline, pushing me to practice at home. Really, I just wanted to be out with my mates, even though we would still be kicking a ball around. I felt like [sport] stole my childhood.”

Another ‘Almost’ said, “It was a real feeling of release to get away from my father and go to university. But once there, I seemed to lose my way. No-one telling me what to do… I just lost interest.”
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Nobel-Prize Winning Productivity Strategies From A Whacky Physicist

richard_feynmanRichard Feynman was one of the most creative and iconoclastic scientists of the past century. A glimpse inside his approach to productivity is provided by Samuel Bacharach:

For Feynman, productivity was less about getting tasks done and more about exploring problems that intrigued him.

1. Don’t worry about what others think
“You have no responsibility to live up to what other people think you ought to accomplish,” Feynman asserted. “I don’t have to be like they expect me to be. It’s their mistake, not my failing.”

By adopting this attitude, you free yourself from paralyzing second guesses, doubts, and uncertainty. Work in your own way and don’t let other people’s criticisms delay you.

2. Don’t think about what you want to be, but what you want to do
“Fall in love with some activity, and do it!” Feynman advised. “Nobody ever figures out what life is all about, and it doesn’t matter. Explore the world. Nearly everything is really interesting if you go into it deeply enough.

Work as hard and as much as you want to on the things you like to do the best. Keep up some kind of a minimum with other things so that society doesn’t stop you from doing anything at all.”

3. Stop trying to be a know-it-all
“I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong,” Feynman said. “We should try to prove ourselves wrong as quickly as possible, because only in that way can we make progress.”

4. Get off the computer
Feynman avoided computers whenever he could because they were distractions that dulled his ability to investigate the world.

“There is a computer disease,” he said. “It’s very serious and interferes completely with creative work.”
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Staying Focused Throughout The Working Day

You find yourself lost in a repetitive cycle of clicking from web page to web page, checking your e-mail every couple of minutes or passively skimming through a Twitter feed while paying little attention to what you’re reading in it. Mindless media use is a growing problem; Mark Carrigan has some useful reflections:

This is starting to be referred to as “continuous partial attention” and the behavior driving it as “distraction addiction.”
Tension and anxiety are created by “the sheer scale of what we’re missing out on and our growing awareness of all the other things we could and perhaps should be doing.

“The most obvious way to reduce mindless media consumption is simply to recognize that you’re doing it. Putting a name to the experience makes it easy to identify what you’re doing and so help you drag yourself out of an impending technology loop.

The website www.donothingfor2minutes.com offers a helpful antidote to the frenzied hyperactivity which characterizes the technology loop.

Other tips: Buy a pay-as-you-go phone for when you really want and/or *need* to get away from the Internet. You’ll have a phone for emergencies and other basic communication.

You can also delete the mail settings on my iPhone when you want to disconnect but nonetheless retain the capacity to consult, for example, Google Maps or the weather report.

Staying focused throughout the working day; continuous partial attention, distraction addiction, Internet detox, media overwhelm, digital detox

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Clearing Your Mind In Order To Get Things Done

woman-writing-with-pen-in-notebookHow do you get things done that really matter to you? Clear your mind. Yes, that’s it. The problem is most people don’t know how to clear their mind, writes David G. Allan.

The strange paradox is you actually have to use your mind to shut your mind up. First ask yourself: ‘Why is this on my mind?’

Our brain is a poor and unreliable repository of all the things we try to cram into it. “Smart” phones and social networks are making the problem worse. By living a life of distraction , we are crowding out the deeper and creative thoughts, along with any hope of real quiet.

How to make things better:
1) Adopt a reliable capture method (Evernote, voice memos, a notebook, etc) to get thoughts out of your head.
2) Distill them to actionable items and next steps (“send receipts to Finance,” or “call a kick-off meeting”) on your daily to-do list.
3) Dedicate yourself to multiple reviews in which you put these action items into the right buckets (“must be done today,” “phone calls when I’m on the train”).
4) Do the things on the list when you have time, prioritizing as you go.

David G. Allan has enjoyed occasional, fleeting moments when he realizes, “I don’t have anything I need to think about!” When it happens, a more creative or big picture idea often enters to fill the void. He also experiences increased focus on a project when he’s unfettered by mental loops reminding him to act on something else
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The Anti-Anxiety Benefits of “Unloading” Periods

unloading_deloading_@timferriss_tim_ferrissMany people find journaling – basically writing down your contemplations – helpful. Tim Ferriss likens reflecting with pen-and-paper to a photography darkroom for the contents of his mind. The most fruitful journaling emerges during what Tim calls “unloading” periods.

Unloading is a term often used in athletic strength and conditioning, but it’s a concept that can be applied to many other areas of life. In athletics, unloading is a back-off week; a planned reduction in exercise volume or intensity. The purpose is to prepare the body for the increased future demands and to reduce the risk of overtraining.

Tim says he has used unloading outside of sports to decrease anxiety at least 50% while simultaneously doubling his income.
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Practicing Mindfulness Throughout Your Work Day

Mindfulness Meditation at Work tipsSome useful suggestions from Rasmus Hougaard and Jacqueline Carter:

“People spend 47% of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they’re doing. In other words, many of us operate on autopilot. Add to this that we have entered what many people are calling the ‘attention economy.’

“In the attention economy, the ability to maintain focus and concentration is every bit as important as technical or management skills. And because leaders need to absorb and synthesize a growing flood of information to make good decisions, they’re hit particularly hard by this emerging trend.

“…First, start off your day right. Researchers have found that we release the most stress hormones within minutes after waking. Why? Because thinking of the day ahead triggers our fight-or-flight instinct and releases cortisol into our blood. Instead, try this: When you wake up, spend two minutes in your bed simply noticing your breath. As thoughts about the day pop into your mind, let them go and return to your breath.

“…E-mails have a way of seducing our attention and redirecting it to lower-priority tasks because completing small, quickly accomplished tasks releases dopamine, a pleasurable hormone, in our brains. This release makes us addicted to e-mail and compromises our concentration…

“…To get a better start to your day, avoid checking your e-mail first thing in the morning. Doing so will help you sidestep an onslaught of distractions and short-term problems during a period of exceptional focus and creativity.

“… as the day comes to an end and you start your commute home, apply Mindfulness. For at least 10 minutes of the commute, turn off your phone, shut off the radio, and simply be. Let go of any thoughts that arise. Pay attention to your breath. Doing so will allow you to let go of the stresses of the day so you can return home and be fully present with your family.”

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Mindfulness Without Action Risks Creating Inertia

action awareness yin yang circleMindfulness can be a great way to tackle stress and generate a sense of calm. But isn’t there a danger that if we only live in the moment, we don’t address the causes of the problems we were are trying to overcome, asks Thomas Webb.

Be careful that Mindfulness isn’t being used as a distraction technique or otherwise get in the way of concrete behavioral change. If we want to complete projects and launch positive follow-up initiatives, then we may need to look beyond the “now” and tackle the roots problems that underpin how we are currently feeling.

Fight inertia: Create plans that specify how to achieve your good intentions. Identify a good opportunity to act, a suitable response to that opportunity, and link these two things together in an “if X happens, then I do Y” format, which often helps people achieve their goals.

Planning ahead has the advantage that it is a problem-focused coping strategy that attempts to tackle the cause of something rather than purely focusing on alleviating its symptoms. While Mindfulness may help to foster the necessary mind-set required for change, problem-focused strategies like planning ahead must be put in place to determine what needs to be done to move something from where it currently is to where you’d like it to be in the future.

 

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Seven Ways to Carve Out Time to Meditate

Some very practical tips by Alex Orlov for creating more moment for Mindfulness.


1. Type it into your phone calendar
Instead of simply hoping you’ll be able to squeeze in meditation on the fly, try setting aside a specific time for it. Rather than thinking of meditation as another item on your to-do list, think of it as a gift to yourself.

2. Do it in the morning
Especially for parents with young kids, doing it before the day gets underway is your best bet for fitting in some “me time,” she says. Don’t set goals too high in the beginning. “If you can do five minutes, that’s better than nothing.”

3. Start with one breath
A tiny habit should be a behavior that requires little effort and can be performed in less than 30 seconds. That seed of a habit can grow into a full-blow tree.

4. Do a bit of meditation after an existing habit
For example, breathe mindfully for 10 seconds after you go to the bathroom at work. This is called anchoring. Chose a daily occurrence or existing activity to remind yourself to meditate.

5. Use headphones
There are four ways to meditate: Walking, standing, sitting or lying down. Get a pair of noise cancelling headphones to meditate in airports and on planes.

6. Divert time away from discretionary activities
Make a commitment to spend 25% less time on every e-mail you write or respond to. Only read urgent *and* important articles right away; all the others put in a “Read Eventually” folder. Schedule meeting to be 15 to 20 minutes shorter than usual – instead of 10 to 11a.m., schedule it for 10 to 10:40a.m.

7. Practice when you’ve got time to kill
Resist the urge to scroll through social media the moment your dining companion heads to the bathroom. Have some moments in the day where you’re just being rather than doing. Look around, smile at other people and enjoy some momentary calm. While it’s not the same as doing a seated meditation, being fully present during these small moments can help you feel more comfortable confronting the thoughts rattling around in your mind.

Meditation, broadcaster Dan Harris says, is “fighting a lifetime pattern of letting your thoughts lead you by the nose… “Don’t put the pressure on yourself that you have to do it forever,” Harris says. It’s okay if you fall off the wagon for a few weeks, so long as you muster the grit to return to your practice. The power of meditation, he says, is derived from practicing daily.

The article on finding time to meditate, prioritizing mindfulness practice:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/life-by-dailyburn-/time-meditation_b_7545328.html

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Six “Good” Reasons to Stay Clear of the Mindfulness Trend

Melissa Georgiou points out some possible “risks” of jumping on the Mindfulness bandwagon:

1. Your health might improve.
Relaxation is entirely overrated; we need to stay busy and always vigilent.

2. You might enjoy your life more.
Who needs to appreciate the beauty that is right in front of them? Nature, connectedness and beauty are so last year! And attention spans. Who needs it anymore? We have so many flashing lights and colorful advertisements surrounding us that we need to stay tuned in case we miss out on something!

3. You might learn to breathe better.
When you continue with the shallow breathing, your body is always in a state of urgency. How on earth do you suppose you will do all of that multitasking if you learn mindfulness? Short sharp breaths help
everything happen faster!

4. Your friends and family might want to spend more time with you.
You might become a better listener who really cares about connecting with other humans. N.B. This would mean less time on social media.
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Effective Leaders Focus on Well-Being to Increase Productivity

Highlights from an article by Rich Fernandez in the Harvard Business Review:
empathic leadership happy office
Model and encourage well-being practices.
Individual team members who reported experiencing well-being were 20% more likely to have other team members who also reported thriving six months later, according to recent Gallup research.

Offer mindfulness and resilience training; explicitly encourage people to take time for exercise or other renewal activities, such as walking meetings; build buffer time so that people can work flexibly and at a manageable pace.

Allow time to disconnect outside of work.
The McKinsey Quarterly asserts that “always-on, multitasking work environments are killing productivity, dampening creativity, and making us unhappy.” The “always on” state of mind, is dangerous because it fails to take recovery time into account. Even the best athletes require rest.

Be intentional about when you expect team members (and yourself) to engage in the office or digitally, and be intentional and explicit about when not to engage. No emails after 8 PM or on weekends, for example.

Train the brain to deal with chaos.
Leaders and teams who practice mindfulness collaborate better, navigate stress more effectively, and sustain high performance.
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Busy Leader? How to be Left in Peace for a Week: Email Management

Email management, work-life balance

leadership-work-life-balance-email-managementWho is your key administrator and/or operations officer? Have a brief chat with him or her about three business days before you are due to go away on vacation. That gives them the time to get urgent issues and documentation that require your attention in front of you in the days before your break.

Explain to your key administrator that you want to be left in peace for a week. No further explanation required. Yes, it’s that simple! The vast majority of human beings understand the need for rest and relaxation.

Then send your own version of this email template (below) to the two or three key day-to-day administrator/operations people in your working life:

Hi Guys,

During my holiday from Monday the 11th to Friday the 15th inclusive, I’m aiming for as little disruption as possible.

Generally “Elena” (my lead administration/operations person), in consultation with Richard and Sophie (two senior leaders who aren’t on vacation that week), if necessary – should be able to handle any on-going issues during the week.

If there is an absolutely important and *urgent* issue that I am needed for, please send me a text message *and* leave a voice message, on these two numbers:

555 287 0533 (my personal mobile phone number)

555 287 1754 (my vacation companion’s mobile phone number)

Please note that I will *not* be checking any e-mail addresses during the week.

There is an “out of office” message on my e-mail addresses telling senders that I will respond to their message on the 18th of August and if the matter is urgent, to contact Elena by e-mail.

Thanks and best regards,

Glenn

What do you think? How would this work for you? Drop me a line at: glenn@mindfulyourownbusiness.com

Key topics: Email management, stress reduction, workplace communications, work-life balance, vacation planning

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Mindfulness: An Effective Mental Health Treatment But Not a Panacea

mindfulness-therapy-groupSome useful caveats in a recent article in The Guardian newspaper in the U.K.

“Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy isn’t suitable for patients who are in the grip of a drug or alcohol dependency, as they won’t be able to fully engage with the therapy. Also, patients who are recently bereaved may find MBCT too overwhelming.” Dr. Christina Surawy, a clinical psychologist.

Mindfulness is not useful for patients during an episode of severe depression. These patients should wait until they recover to a mild or moderate state before engaging with MBCT.” – Florian Ruths, psychiatrist.

Ruths adds that unlike some drug treatments, side effects are very rare with MBCT, though “minor side effects, such as a temporary drop in mood before an improvement in mood, are more common but manageable”. He emphasises that it is important for MBCT therapists to be properly trained to deal with any side effects and support their patients appropriately.

Dr. Clara Strauss, research lead at Sussex Mindfulness Centre, emphasises that MBCT teachers in training learn to have an attitude of acceptance: “Mindfulness is not about getting rid of negative thoughts, it’s about learning to sit with and tolerate all of our experiences, including difficult experiences, with kindness and compassion towards ourselves.
“An inexperienced teacher may respond to a person’s struggle with difficult experiences with inadvertent judgment, encouraging the person to try to avoid or change these,” Strauss says.

“In the face of budget cuts, it’s been relatively straightforward to integrate MBCT into our trust. It’s a no-brainer: the arguments in favour stack up for both patients and staff. It’s effective, and can be made readily available to large numbers of people as a group intervention … It’s rare for patients to find it unhelpful, and research has found that the results are comparable to ongoing anti-depressant drug treatment.” — Tim Sweeney, clinical psychologist

Link to the article in The Guardian:
http://www.theguardian.com/healthcare-network/views-from-the-nhs-frontline/2015/may/11/mental-health-colleagues-dont-understand-depression

Topics: Mental health, Mindfulness, therapy, treatment